Friday, May 31, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Budding Artist

Here was a gift from our young friend Sage, a painting of a male kestrel which he worked on until way past his bedtime. He attended our Seeley Lake program on Saturday with a few hundred other birdwatchers. In the PowerPoint, he learned that raptors have fast brains and see events much closer together in time that we can. The human brain sees 20 images per second, television and film is 25 images per second that we process as motion. Raptors can see 70-80 events or images per second! And I showed this photo of a kestrel feeding on a dragonfly that I saw her catch in the air. Here's the take-home trivia - dragonflies see up to 300 events per second! Talk about a high speed world and we are just chugging along, slow-mo. This is called Flicker Fusion Frequency. Look it up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

STAY! Good Boy.

Another two hours of an eagle standing there so I amused myself by shooting a big depth of field to get the clouds. Then major storm clouds moved in, and looks like for the rest of the week, so no beach trips for a while. I got a very nice compliment about our program at the Loon and Fish Festival at Seeley Lake Saturday: "You have your audience appeal down, and even my mom who has advanced dementia was able to sit there and not fidget...which is the longest she has sat still excepting when she sleeps."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Air View

I was very lucky to have a tour of the Raptor Ranch, from the air for once, and thanks to Erick Greene for the ride! We met at 7 am and flew the Cessna up the Bitterroot to see our spread, the red roofs of the house and studio/garage/etc. and to the right, the enclosures.  I can even see the Bald Eagle nest tree across the river.  Let's all pitch in and buy Erick an airplane, okay?

Sunday, May 26, 2013


"How much sand can a sandpiper pipe if a sandpiper is spotted piping sand?" John Ohrmann

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friday Eagle Nest

This one from the road driving home, and the adult left a split second after I took this shot. Too bad because I can stand there for two or three hours and they don't move a muscle.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Loon Fest Tomorrow

Take a little drive to Seeley Lake tomorrow for the festivities of the 21st Annual Loon and Fish Festival! Two days packed with activities in town and a Raptors of the Rockies program at 12:30 at the elementary school. We'll see how to fit an eagle, hawk, two owls, box of books and my sister Betsy in the Subaru. And check out the great story in the Helena Independent Record about the "lady of the raptors." That's a new one. This loon is a scratchboard I did in high school that my dad had made into prints.  I'd paint the eye red and sell them to buy books. And punk rock records...circa 1979 or so.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


These woodpeckers are everywhere in the Bitterroot, and a nice nest down the road with a pair still in courtship in a little stand of dead cottonwoods. At least a dozen European Starlings are well on the way in reproduction, food deliveries and every time one flies in, I have to look up and see if it's these guys. On a mission to photograph this nest and (fingers crossed) a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers also in the front yard...maybe another candidate as an Honorary Raptor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Philpsburg Field Trip

Our friend Liz Hill, teacher in Philpsburg arranged this one, school bus of 40 kindergarten through 4th graders, a perfect bunch, look at 'em!  Our tour and picnic was cut short when the rain and hail rolled in and we beat a hasty retreat to the living room (that we call the downstair, as there is one step to the rest of the house, or the upstair.) They met Sibley and saw the two deer taxidermy shoulder mounts I did a million years ago, hanging side by side on the wall. I told them the story of the Chinese kids that came over years ago. When they saw those deer heads, they walked through the room, opened the back door, and looked for the rest of the deer. True. Here they surround the penguin in the driveway that you can just see by the kid with the purple sunglasses, future hip-hop star.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Last Night

Bald Eagle pair and kestrel spies a Barn Swallow.

Monday, May 20, 2013

He's Back!

I should say "one is back." A Black-chinned hummingbird is now King of the Hill around here, and might be the same one as the last few years. They are rather uncommon, and we started seeing a single male here in 2010, but not until June. The Calliope hummers have made themselves scarce, today at least, and with three feeders up and lots of plants in bloom, I'm sure no one will starve. Black-chinned's are slightly larger, and you can just see that tint of bright violet iridescence on his "chin." Females of both species have light throats, and surprisingly, are slightly larger than their mates. Male Black-chinned hummingbirds weigh a whopping 3.1 grams, females 3.4 grams, just slightly heavier than a penny. I think they should be Honorary Raptors.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Flee from the Passerines!

Those are the perching birds, a starling and magpie at the old kestrel nest tonight. I think I'll officially give up on the them showing up this spring, and a real disappointment as I am writing a book on kestrels and that was my star nest. I am collaborating with Rob Palmer and know he'll find some great ones in Colorado, and I am still on the prowl.

Feeding the Kids at Five Weeks

This also from last night, and so far I have just seen two young. Last year they fledged three, and I never saw of them at once until June! Notice the second chick between the two, a little mohawk of downy feathers still. With the high water I had to scootch across a log over a raging temporary creek dumping water from the river into the slough. Quite uncomfortable and no way I could walk on that log- I'd go in the drink. I have my camera in a Lowepro pack on my back and the tripod for balance, and am going to saw those staubs off that log, ouch.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kestrel Tree?

I am just about to give up on finding kestrels at last year's tree and nothing so far. One male perched briefly and fled from a Red-tail. Then yesterday, this guy perched in the cottonwood, oh well...Some folks report that kestrel nesting phenology (timing) is late this year, but this is a bit too late for comfort, so I've been out looking for other nests. Last year I was still photographing courtship on this date.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Little Ones

Miles (Davis) the Great Horned Owl recently met the kids at the University Congregational Church pre-school and benevolent overlord Jean ("Miss Jean") Woessner. This is her last year and she's seen multitudes of little ones hoot like an owl when we visit. Look at these future zoologists and conservationists... and paleontologists as this class calls themselves The Dinosaurs. Good luck, Jean and enjoy retirement.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two Calliope's

This looks like this is a different bird than last night, judging from the colorful throat feathers. Yesterday I visited some friends up Miller Creek, and they had 15 Calliope Hummingbirds at their feeder at one time.  My pals the Lowe's at Bannack State Park - dozens and dozens. Jealous? You bet, as he have had just a few at our feeders over these 12 years, and too bad that our Black-chinned has not made it back. I am standing on a ladder in the yard and realized that 6400-8000th of a second works best. In the old days of film, that would use up your whole 36 exposure roll in a heartbeat. Remember rotary phones, kids? How about 8-track tape players and black and white TV's? Digital blows my mind.


Being as I have a hiatus in the Bald Eagle nest vigil, I decided to shoot these guys in the yard, this
is one just before dark with storm clouds looming.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Where's that confounded bridge?"

It's officially over, my evening trips across the slough in the backyard, as the bridge floated in the high water tonight at 5:15 pm. Tom is wrangling it up here, dogs eating drowning mice and voles, delicious.
Each spring we are forced to drag the homemade bridge up into the yard with the high water, and then have come up with ingenious methods to re-install it when the water drops. Sometimes pulleys and cables, and last year all of the staff of MCAT and a bunch of kids. Anyone recognize that quote in the title?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not Very Flattering

We love the eagles in the back yard, but sometimes they don't look very photogenic, as in the female just taking a bath in the river. She landed on a snag, then preened forever, or at least until it got dark. Better photos on the way...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Snipe in the Sky

I posted this Blog on May 14th 2011 entitled "Snipe Really Do Exist" and some photos from this morning:

I pointed out a flying Wilson's Snipe  to some visitors this week, and they were surprised to learn that there really is such a thing. Apparently one of our friends was tricked into "snipe hunts" as a kid, pointless ventures into the night with a sack, a practical joke played on all kids. This was a male snipe performing an elaborate flight display marking his territory, flying high and plunging toward the ground. Special muscles fan out his tail feathers which vibrate and make a beautiful winnowing sound. Instead of the typical 12 tail feathers of other birds including sandpipers, snipe have 14 or 16 depending on subspecies. They must have a nest in the grass near the house, and this guy displays well past dark.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Calliope Hummers

Ever wonder what a "streaked rosy gorget" looks like? (Thanks for the description by David Sibley, Sibley Guide to Birds.) Now you know and a Calliope Hummingbird scratching his head yesterday morning. Not a mouthful of flowers!

    Pike Place

    Yesterday I was just shutting off the lawn mower when I watched the male Bald Eagle leap off the nest tree and head my way. After a few circles, he plunged into the slough in the back yard and pulled out a pike! A beaver dam has made a sort of pond there, no more trees and all of the willows munched down to stubs. It was 2 pm, and the light was terrible so I didn't head down to the river. I got this shot 4 hours later of the female with the pike, and notice one of the chicks between the parents. These pike were planted here, non-native, so eagles, have at it!

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Let Me Vent

    Hey, where is your Raptor Round-Up newsletter that was mailed last Wednesday? Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service all 200 copies were sent back to me today, and the reason being that they were not "machineable." Funny, but the last 42 issues were just fine. I was assured that the main post office knew that they wouldn't make it through that automatic machine so someone there just hand stamped them out of the goodness in their heart for the last 20 years.  So I put another 20 cent stamp on each one, check your mail tomorrow, and next time I guess I have to tape all the sides shut. On a lighter note, these pheasants in the street in front of the house were having a similar discussion. Another major fight and hope to catch it again with more photos.

    Who, me?

    Sunday, May 5, 2013

    American Robin, King Penguin

    I always wondered why there was so much bird poop on the sculptures in the yard, and found out today. Turdus migratorius, the American Robin with the fitting Latin name. This one is preening after making his mark on the penguin sculpture, etched forever into this big bird's history.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Thanks, Teller

    What a day and I am guessing about 200 kids and their parents showed up for the Youth Expo at Teller today! Great work by organizers Tom Powers and Jon Miller, with Shane Clouse and a song to start the festivities at 10 a.m. I just joined Pheasants Forever, thanks Sam Lowry!

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    American Eagle - American Kestrels

    I am really not that patriotic, but after the Bald Eagle and European Starling shot, this one from last night is better. By the way, did you know that starlings are  a very sighting in the UK now? What happened to them and too bad it hasn't happened here.

    See You Tomorrow!

    Join us for the Youth Conservation & Education Expo tomorrow morning at Teller Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis. A full day of activities for kids from toddlers to 18 years of age. Dozens of sponsors including the Elk Foundation, FWP, Ducks Unlimited, Backcountry Horseman, Bitterroot Land Trust, Trout Unlimited, WOW! Begins at 10 p.m. Kicking off with a salute, a song, and then a Raptors Program, FREE for ALL. This is a photo of Erick Greene, Derek Landry and Alisa the Red-tail with some bizarre contrails shooting out of One Horse Creek. Peregrine nest up there somewhere!

    Thursday, May 2, 2013

    Some More Science Today

    Dr. Erick Greene was joined this morning by Dr. Dean Pearson, head Research Ecologist from the Rocky Mountain Field Station with the Forest Service for a little experiment across the road. They wondered how the Columbian Ground Squirrel colony would react to a perched predator, i.e. Alisa the Red-tailed Hawk. First a GoPro camera was installed ten feet up on a pole out in the middle of a boat-load of these "gophers" to record behavior, and two students recorded sound, Devin Landry and Sam Case. I placed the hawk out out a perch in the land-mine field of burrows, and we sat back to see what would happen. Dozens of these furry prey items came out, all focused on the hawk, and all recorded in audio and video. Alias was a star, and on her best behavior like in education programs. Wait until you hear what comes next, stay tuned.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Raptor Round-Up, Spring Version

    Picking up a pile to mail today, but see it first here and in living color! Bald Eagle Empire, a return visit to the Washington coast, American Kestrel Partnership at The Peregrine Fund, and much more…